Dr. Anderson’s theory was first published in his “Book of Constitutions” in 1723; a second edition was published in 1738. Anderson referred extensively to the latest version of the Legend of the Craft available at that time, and more precisely from “Record of Freemasons”, a lost manuscript written at the end of the fifteenth century and the Legend of Euclid. Anderson was not probably aware of the earliest manuscripts such as those of Halliwell and Robert, which contain older versions of the Legend. In doing so Anderson wrote a Legend of his own that differed in many points from the previous ones. It was accepted by the Craft as true history of the Order for at least one century and a half, if not more.
The old Legend of the Craft was little known by the members of the Craft until the old manuscripts were published. On the contrary, the Legend of Anderson was largely diffused and known.
Anderson first states the Adam had a good knowledge of Geometry, and that makes him the founder of Masonry and Architecture. Adam taught these Arts to his sons, Cain and Seth, who taught them to their own children. As a result Masonry dates from before Noah who, with his three sons, built the Ark and divulged Masonry to the post-diluvian world. Noah’s heirs tried to build the tower of Babel, but God made them speak different languages and dispersed them in the world, with the consequent loss of Masonry. It was however preserved in Shinar and Assyria; Nimrod, the Chaldeans, and the Magi built many cities and preserved, and taught, Geometry and Masonry in many countries, including Canaan. Abraham brought the knowledge of these sciences to Egypt and to his descendants, the Israelites, who were a people of Masons. King Solomon had a beautiful temple built in Jerusalem with the help of King Hiram of Tyre and Hiram Abif. Anderson’s story of the Temple of Solomon has had a strong influence on the following legends, and also on the rituals and the modern concepts of Speculative Masons. The builders of the Jerusalem Temple taught Masonry to the known world.
Anderson then introduces Nebuchadnezzar as a Grand Master who learned Masonry from the Jewish captives that he brought to Babylon. After came Cyrus and Zerubbabal, the leader of the Jews, who built the second Temple. From Palestine, Masonry went to Greece where great philosopher like Pythagoras improved its content. The work of Euclid in Egypt is also mentioned. Masonry reached also Rome – and then the conquered territories – whose Emperor, Augustus, became the local Grand Master who introduced the Augustan style of architecture.
When the Romans left Britain, the Masonic arts fell into disuse. It was revived in the eighth century under the Saxon Kings before disappearing again to come back in the eleventh century at the time of the Norman Conquest. Anderson then repeats the story of King Athelstan and of his son Edwin
The kings of Scotland encouraged Masonry from the beginning, and allowed the Scottish masons to have a Grand Master and a Grand Warden. Queen Elisabeth the First did not like Masonry but her successor, James I, was one of its patrons. Charles I and II as well as King William, Queen Ann, and George I encouraged the Order.
Anderson’s theory is based on the latest versions of the Legend of the Craft, except the last part, which is semi-historical. The second version does not bring new material but is written more like history than legend.